So many flowers turn into berries, which then become food for all the wildlife visitors to the garden. This abundant harvest can make all the difference to the animals and birds who spend the winter months with us.
I have read that wildlife will start with berries which are black, then purple, followed by red ones and then leave orange, yellow and white till last.
This is certainly true with the berries from Sambucus Black Lace here, this has fantastic pink flowers which are followed by black berries, they are eaten almost as soon as they are formed. The same goes for the black berries on our Amelanchier tree- when I went to photograph them they had all gone – the birds had got there first!
These lovely orange berries belong to Arum italicum marmoratum, a plant which likes the shade and has beautiful variegated marbling to the leaves. As well as the birds eating the berries, they are also enjoyed by the slugs !!
Rosa glauca is a beautiful rose – a very simple small pink flower accompanied by the most gorgeous blue grey foliage. The flowers are followed by these lovely hips which are enjoyed by the wildlife later in the winter.
Viburnum opulus has white flowers in the spring , similar to lacecap hydrangeas. These are followed in the autumn by clusters of bright red berries, which never seem to last very long. I’m sure that lots of these berries are eaten by small mammals as well as birds.
Clusters of berries follow the fantastically perfumed flowers of the honeysuckle. Many times, while we have been sitting under our honeysuckle covered arbour having a coffee, we have seen field voles scampering up and down, round and round the main stem, just like a helter skelter and running about among the berries – I’m sure they help the birds to eat them.
These amazing flower tassels belong to Leycesteria formosa. The small white flowers inside the purple bracts are followed by matching purple berries. Blackbirds love these berries and are probably responsible for all the seedlings found all over the garden!
Cotoneaster horizontalis is a wonderful plant for wildlife. Bees love it earlier in the year when in flower, it is usually buzzing with them. When the red berries arrive it is usually the thrushes and blackbirds who enjoy them.
Pyracantha is such a thorny bush, good for birds to nest in. White flowers, loved by the bees are followed by masses of berries, red, orange or yellow. Bushes with yellow or orange berries hang on to them for a long time, their berries are the last to be eaten.
Another plant which is invaluable to wildlife is Ivy. It is essential to the Holly Blue butterfly, along with Holly bushes. The bees go absolutely mad for the flowers which appear late in the year and the berries eventually form to provide essential food over the winter.
Our grandsons think the conkers produced by our Horse Chestnut trees are just for them – the squirrels think they are just to be buried in the lawn. I have even seen the squirrels eating the flower spikes in the spring, picking the spikes when still in bud and peeling them like a banana, before eating them. When they do this there aren’t many conkers in the autumn!!
These fantastic purple berries belong to Lonicera nitida. We have a small hedge of it outside our kitchen window and one day I saw a blackbird obviously enjoying something delicious. I managed to photograph a couple of berries that he had missed – they really are an amazing colour.
Our purple Berberis bush produces so many wonderful reddish/purple berries that are exactly the same colour that the leaves become in the autumn – the whole bush just glows all day long.
We have plenty of holly bushes tucked away in the wilder corners of the garden, but never seem to have many berries, enough bushes though to keep the Holly Blue butterfly happy. The wildlife obviously enjoys eating the berries but the Holly Blue uses it, along with the ivy to lay their eggs, then we enjoy the butterflies in the summer.
In the shady parts of the garden, especially the woodland, we have a few Iris foetidissima. The flowers are rather quiet, they don’t shout at you like some Iris flowers do, but when Autumn arrives and the seedheads split open, wow, what a difference! Fantastic orange berries shine out of all the dark corners, I presume that they are spread around by the birds, and I have to be very grateful for that because sometimes they grow in places where nothing else will.
From this I think our bushes and trees are producing so many berries that the wildlife in the garden must be exceedingly well fed. As well as all the birds which enjoy the food, we have lots of small mammals, mice, voles and shrews, which share the feast – and dare I say it – these in turn feed the tawny owl that we hear at night just as we are drifting off to sleep!!!
I feel that I ought to add a P.S. about the order in which the birds eat the berries. Our Pyracantha bush in the front by the entrance was covered with orange berries, by mid November it had been stripped bare. Next door has a red berried bush trained up their garage wall, just 20 feet away, it is still covered in berries, I can only assume the birds have not read my nature book!